Targeting Small Tarpon

Which fly patterns won't hang up in the mangroves?

Q: "I have an opportunity to fish for baby tarpon ranging from 6 to 25 pounds in the Campeche, Mexico, area. I've been told that many of these tarpon are found in mangrove creeks or along mangrove shorelines. I am not the most accurate caster and am hoping that you can recommend some patterns that won't hang up too much in the mangroves but will still take these fish."

Brent Matthews
Raleigh, North Carolina

A: Hooking these baby tarpon on a light rod is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the sport. Mono or plastic-coated weed guards help, but after two or three fish, the guards are often mangled. Bend-back patterns also work, but they should be tied on slightly longer-than-normal hook shanks to increase hookups.

Most of this fishing is in the shallows, so I don’t use weighted patterns. After bending the shank, tie the wing materials on only the portion you didn’t bend. I prefer bucktail with a little flash.